Within our bodies, cells inhabit 3D environments with complex chemical and physical conditions. However, most studies on cells in vitro use 2D methods. Over the past few decades, researchers have been devising ways to more closely recreate a cell’s natural environment in the lab.

Sreepadmanabh et al. described recent advances in the development of materials and scaffolds for culturing and printing cells in 3D. These more complex platforms are poised to increase understanding of cellular processes, benefiting fields such as tissue engineering and biomedical research.

While most of these innovations were developed for specific applications, the authors hope to motivate a wider adoption of 3D cell culturing and bioprinting platforms.

“To enhance the accessibility of such platforms for the broader scientific community, it is necessary to place the individual elements of this progress in context for a big-picture perspective on our current capabilities and potential,” said author Tapomoy Bhattacharjee. “We expect this to be a handy resource for both veteran and new entrants to this field, who will find value in leveraging the manifold capabilities of 3D culturing platforms for probing, visualizing, and manipulating cells with unprecedented precision in complex yet controlled environments.”

These techniques will aid in the design of artificial organs and regenerative implants, as well as the study of how tissue architecture affects function.

“Given the tremendous biomedical and societal impact of such research, it is an urgent and necessary requirement to bring more hands, ideas, and strategies on board to fully realize the immense potential of tissue bioengineering for transforming healthcare,” Bhattacharjee said.

Source: “Design approaches for 3D cell culture and 3D bioprinting platforms,” by Sreepadmanabh M, Ashitha B Arun, and Tapomoy Bhattacharjee, Biophysics Reviews (2024). The article can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0188268.